Size matters, or does it?


Brian as usual kicked off the evening, this time with a poignant rendition of Donegal Danny in memory of Chris Yates who sadly passed away recently. ‘Here’s to you that are dead and gone.’ St Brendan’s Voyage was the second song, putting the record straight on the discoverer of the ‘New World.’ Apparently said Saint dropped off for some candles in 901a.d.

Blogger up next with the first outing for a new self-penned ditty – ‘Sweet Nothings’ . Capo on 4 then to allow my voice, of limited range, to tackle Drever’s ‘Steel and Stone’. ‘Nuff said, let’s move on to the next offering which was from our resident harpist, Frances.

A difficult piece, with high demand of left hand, was easily mastered as Frances covered a song from the Finish band Night Wish that went by the name of ‘Moondance’.  Where there’s a harp there a jig not far away and this one, delivered with nimble aplomb, was ‘I think’ called Lisnasharragh.

Keeping up the Irish theme, at least in terms of name, Derry Jones made a much-welcomed appearance after a gap of 5 years. He recalled a different time when everything was different except it was really the same – a few people getting together to strum through an eclectic mix of songs ‘what they wrote’ or what they liked. Derry explained that he used to bring an accordion in the past but had now moved on to the guitar, as it was easier to sing and pluck rather than sing and squeeze. His first number was a ‘Formbyesque’ song about a fat man. Good choice for the first public outing of the guitar, as it only had two chords. I only mention this as the two-chord trick was pointed out by Derry as he introduced the song.  ‘Pleasure Island’ followed which had several more chords and a couple of widdly bits. Good stuff Derry!

Gasps then ensued as John Daure unsheathed his Gretch. It was allegedly bigger than Brian’s, however it was still a Ukulele with just four strings, as some of the more numerate amongst us noted when James Porter pulled his six string out for his spot. ‘Your ukulele is even bigger and it’s got two more strings’ noted a keen eyed observer, through the flickering of the tea lights.  

Anyway, more on James later; John opened with ‘Guru’, a Loudon Wainwright  number and followed that up with Dylan’s ‘Don’t think twice’.  Was John being subtle here; Dylan … ukulele … Magic Roundabout … did he get a giant rabbit ‘onesie’ for Christmas?  And if he did, why wasn’t he wearing it!

Back to James Porter, bar chords sliding firmly up and down the neck, as he blasted out ‘Stand by me’ and then it was Strawberry Fields Forever. Great stuff as usual from the Swan’s very own Wurlitzer.

Graeme Morrell, having turned up fashionably late enough to avoid the nomination for blogger, recalled that Rob Walker’s renditions of John Hiatt songs had prompted him to investigate further. Spurred on by Christmas itunes vouchers from loving daughters he had taken the plunge and made a purchase. The result was “Till I get my loving back’ and ‘The open road’. Super interpretations. I’m sure there’ll be more to come as Graeme moves from his Simon and Garfunkel period to a Hiatt phase. Suggest that Rob and Graeme liaise; it’s always upsetting when after hours of practice you are thwarted by some person (putting it politely) playing the song you intended to do just before it’s your turn to take to the floor. Graeme’s done it to me before and his version was much better than mine. Although, unlike John and Brian’s, they very both about the same length.

Bodhran and ukulele, a match made in heaven (or was it genetic engineering?) if ever there was, opened the second half. John and Brian gave us McGuiness Flint’s ‘When I’m dead and gone’ before John sped off into the night clutching his Gretch which was obviously too small and too young to be out at such a late hour.

I had noted that Brian had earlier lubricated his drum, or Mary as Brian said the name was, and it be came clear why as Brian gave a stunning demonstration of wrist spinning Bodhran playing. ‘I like it’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers was then delivered guitar in hand; a song that Brian had come across whilst surfing Youtube. Several more technically adept attendees offered to show Kath how to check a computer’s history just in case Brian had been tempted to stray off the straight and narrow whilst surfing.

Richard Thompson’s ‘Persuasion’ and then Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ were performed before I returned to making notes for the Blog and keeping the fire going.  It can get cold on that stone floor you know, landlord. Oh and by the way, sorry in advance; your profits will be down in January as I am abstaining from the demon and it’s only possible to quaff a couple of bottles of the non-alcoholic stuff before you lose the will to live and have to go home and watch reality T.V. or wild life documentaries.

Bing sings, Walt Disney (say it like Sir Alex Ferguson would) whilst Frances plays the harp. The film, Pocahontas, from 1994/5 included the Alan Menken song ‘Just around the river bend’ and Frances did it proud. Another jig next; most likely inspired by the difficult to ‘bogof’ twenty nine percent horse meat in Tesco’s burgers scandal; Morrison’s jig. (Personally I wouldn’t have minded the odd cheval-burger but the other 79% wasn’t even beef or indeed anything that had ever had DNA!)

Emerging confidently, guitar in hand after first half successes, Derry launched into ‘Incidental music to a very sad event’. A song that inspired searches for Kazoo’s and luckily nobody found one but Brian did expose his own personal ocarina to the appreciative and admiring Tuesday throng. Never mind the sound of one hand clapping, two hands in the hands of an expert whistler can be beautiful. Brian has quite small hands so I guess it was a treble ocarina, a bit like his undersized ukulele.

Derry finished with ‘I’m a city guy’.  A self penned song with charming lyrics, sung to his desert pearl.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Man of the world’ and Elvis’s ‘All shook up’ were James’ pick from his extensive covers catalogue. Much foot tapping and discreet harmonising ensued as James once again got people buzzing.

Bread; ‘I want to make it with you’ is a benchmark song from the 70’s by David Gates or a T.V. series by a minor celebrity chef. Luckily Graeme opted for the former as he  and the Collings once again made sweet music. No evening with Graeme is complete without a Michael Chapman song.  The Mallard, a beautiful song, started with more than a few bars of instrumental introduction. As I listened I wondered if Graeme had chosen this song about ducks because we were in Addingham (You know, Addingham - Slow ducks and children!) But then it became clear that it was not about ducks. There’s a pub in Sprotborough near Doncaster called the Mallard (Geoff Boycott used to frequent it), but no it wasn’t that. No, it was about number 4468 a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive built at Doncaster, England in 1938. The Mallard. The lives of the Mallard and a young lady were intertwined in the song.  I remember seeing the beautiful steam train from the multi-storey car park near the Arndale centre in Donny when I was a lad. Can’t say I remember seeing the young lady though.

And then it was all over, save the usual scramble around for a few songs to jam to. Great evening once again. Good start to the New Year.

Chris Thompson

Posted on January 18, 2013 .